IRELAND'S newly appointed Diaspora Minister will face the watchful eye of the Irish in Britain as he prepares to take the reins of what will be a precedent-setting term.
Following a major cabinet reshuffle last week, Jimmy Deenihan is now the voice in the Dáil for the Irish abroad after his appointment as Ireland’s first Minister of State for the Diaspora.
Welcoming the news, the Irish in Britain organisation — which has long campaigned for such a position — also warned there is much work to be done to engage with the Irish here.
CEO Jennie McShannon said: “Minister Deenihan is the first minister to hold this portfolio, his will be a precedent-setting term. The millions of Irish around the world will be looking closely at his office and few as closely as those of us in Britain.”
She added: “We hope to build a partnership with him to enhance the experiences of the new Irish and to protect the most vulnerable.”
The Taoiseach has also vowed to work closely with his former Minister for the Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht.
Mr Kenny described the new ministerial position as “an important role in connecting with the huge Irish Diaspora throughout the world”.
When contacted by The Irish Post on Monday the Taoiseach’s office confirmed Mr Deenihan will take up the post immediately and that the scope of his brief was being discussed.
It has been suggested that among Mr Deenihan’s responsibilities will be examining whether the Irish abroad should be given the vote in presidential elections in Ireland.
But a spokesperson at the Taoiseach’s office added: “No concrete plans are even on the agenda yet.”
The Kerry native, who has headed up the Department for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht since 2011, will have little time to settle into his role, with issues such as Britain’s forgotten Irish community, voting rights for the Irish abroad and the plight of the undocumented Irish in the US being touted as pressing matters in need of urgent attention.
“Minister Deenihan’s appointment shows the importance of the 70million people of Irish heritage throughout the world,” said Senator Mark Daly, Fianna Fáil spokesperson for the Irish Overseas and Diaspora.
“And the challenges that face him include immigration reform for the 50,000 undocumented Irish in the United States, working visas to the United States and the forgotten Irish community in Britain.”
Additional reporting Fiona Audley and Mal Rogers